10 Mind-Blowing Things That Happened This Week (11/3/17)
Keeping up with the news is hard. So hard, in fact, that we’ve decided to save you the hassle by rounding up the most significant, unusual, or just plain old mind-blowing stories each week.
This was the week that two long-running scandals in American life suddenly went supernova. The sexual harassment storm triggered by the Harvey Weinstein revelations claimed more scalps both in the States and across the Atlantic in Britain. At the same time, the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election finally made its first indictments. Was there other mind-blowing stuff happening around all this? You bet.
10 Harassment Allegations Continued to Sweep The Media And Hit The UK Parliament
Something big is happening in fall 2017. After the Harvey Weinstein allegations, the media has exploded with accusations against powerful men. This week, Hollywood saw three more actors and directors hit with damaging revelations.
Kevin Spacey was the first to fall. The star of House of Cards was accused of sexually harassing two teenage boys (aged 14 and 16) and groping a man in a bar. A stage actor additionally alleged that Spacey had used his position as creative director at London’s Old Vic to harass dozens of young men. While Spacey denies the charges, the fallout has already seen production suspended on House of Cards.
The director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour series) was next, with five accusations made against him. Now Dustin Hoffman has also been accused, though only one victim has so far come forward.
But the biggest story may have come from the UK. After accusations of harassment against government ministers, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon was forced to fall on his sword. UK papers have indicated that he may just be the first. With Theresa May’s Conservatives barely clinging to power, there’s a chance the scandal could bring down the British government.
9 The Catalan President Fled Spain For Belgium
Just like the harassment scandal in the US and UK, the Catalonia crisis in Spain still shows no signs of abating. After calling what Madrid said was an illegal independence referendum, former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was sacked on Friday after declaring an independent republic.
This week, he fled to Belgium, leaving other independence leaders to face the wrath of the Spanish courts. The move threatens to create a tense standoff in the heart of the European Union.
The problem arose last week when Belgium’s migration minister, Theo Francken, effectively invited Puigdemont to seek asylum in the country. Brussels quickly retracted that offer, but the damage had been done. Puigdemont left Catalonia for Belgium, although he declined to say if he was claiming asylum there.
On the other hand, Spain threatened to issue an arrest warrant if Puigdemont didn’t turn up for a court hearing this Thursday. (He didn’t.) By the time you read this, Brussels and Madrid may be involved in the mother of diplomatic spats. Expect this story to keep running for the foreseeable future.
8 Japan Caught One Of Its Worst Serial Killers In Years
Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world. So when murders do happen, they hit the news in a big way. Especially when the victims are women who have been dismembered and left to rot inside a quiet apartment in suburban Tokyo.
On Tuesday, police uncovered such a crime when they arrested 27-year-old Takahiro Shiraishi. He admitted to killing eight women and one man by luring suicidal people to his house of horrors.
His case is eerily reminiscent of that of Hiroshi Maeue, the “Suicide Website Murderer” who killed women he met in online suicide clubs in the mid-2000s. But even Maeue has nothing on Shiraishi. The severed heads of Shiraishi’s victims had been stuffed in a bin and covered with kitty litter, while other body parts were hidden around his home.
Maeue isn’t the worst killer Japan has ever seen. Just last year, Satoshi Uematsu murdered 19 disabled people in a care home, an act he later blamed on President Trump and ISIS controlling his mind. It was the worst atrocity committed on Japanese soil since World War II.
7 Australia Closed Its Grim Manus Detention Facility
For several years, it has been Australian policy to confine newly arrived asylum seekers in grim offshore camps where abuse is rife. The grimmest of these may have been Manus Island, a men-only facility hosted by Papua New Guinea (PNG) where suicide rates were stratospheric.
Recently, PNG’s supreme court ruled that the center was unconstitutional and must be closed down. This week, Australia complied. The camp’s closure sparked a whole new wave of problems.
Neither PNG nor Australia has claimed responsibility for the refugees still housed there. Australia says they can integrate into PNG life (or accept a transfer to Australia’s Nauru center), while PNG says it’s up to Australia to protect them.
This is a salient point as PNG locals have previously attacked Manus Island inmates with rocks and machetes. Afraid of mob violence, up to 600 inmates have refused to leave the decommissioned facility.
Perhaps saddest of all is that there is already a solution staring both countries in the face. New Zealand has offered to take up to 150 Manus Island refugees. Both PNG and Australia have refused to take New Zealand up on the offer.
6 We Smashed CO2 Atmospheric Records
When we humans set our minds to something, we really go all out. This week, it was revealed that we’d smashed previous records for pumping CO2 into the atmosphere in 2016. The World Meteorological Organization revealed on Monday that we now have the highest carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere in the past 800,000 years.
For this, you can blame a combination of human perfidy toward our planet and an exceptionally strong El Nino weather event.
El Nino is a recurring weather system that essentially makes life miserable for millions, bringing drought to Colombia, bleaching Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and just generally acting like Mother Nature’s jerkiest son. It also blocks trees from doing their CO2-eating duty, while simultaneously triggering massive forest fires that put yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
To be clear, this new level isn’t a sign of impending catastrophe. It’s just a reminder that CO2 levels are still creeping upward, now faster than ever.
5 Terrorism Returned To NYC
The last time terrorists successfully struck New York City, it was the morning of September 11, 2001. Nearly 3,000 people died in the collapse of the World Trade Center.
This week, the city suffered yet another attack, though thankfully one with a much lower death toll. An Uzbek immigrant inspired by ISIS drove a truck at high speed along a cycle path, deliberately crashing into people. By the time he smashed into a school bus, eight people were dead.
Although the attack took place in New York City, the worst affected country was by far Argentina. Five Argentine nationals were among those killed, alongside one Belgian and two Americans. Had the attacker not crashed when he did, the death toll would have likely been much higher.
The attack confirms that vehicle rammings are the new weapon of choice for Islamist terrorists, likely thanks to the enormous death toll of the 2016 Bastille Day truck attack.
While such attacks are harder to stop, they aren’t impossible to defend against. The 2016 Berlin Christmas market attack killed far fewer than intended because the truck’s automatic braking system locked after the first impact.
4 A Pakistani Poisoner Accidentally Killed 17 Relatives
Forced marriages are an unfortunate fact of life for many women in Pakistan. Understandably, being forced into life with a man you have no attraction to can cause resentment.
This week, that resentment resulted in tragedy for one family in Multan, a Punjabi city with a population of 4.5 million. A bride in an unhappy forced marriage tried to kill her husband by poisoning his milk. Instead, she managed to kill 17 others.
The accident came about when her husband didn’t drink his milk as usual, and the bride’s mother-in-law used it to make lassi, a yogurt drink, which she served to the entire extended family. Twenty-seven people were hospitalized, with 10 still in serious condition. Among the dead were some of the bride’s immediate relatives.
This case isn’t the worst mass poisoning to hit Multan. Just last year, poisoned sweets managed to kill 33, including five children.
3 Eritrea Was Rocked By Once-In-A-Lifetime Protests
Eritrea’s nickname is “the African North Korea.” That alone should give you some idea of how unlikely protests are in this small, impoverished country. So this week’s news is simultaneously unusual and interesting. On Tuesday, student demonstrators took to the streets in the capital, Asmara. The resulting violence may have seen as many as 28 killed and 100 wounded.
We say “may have” because getting accurate information from Eritrea is, frankly, a fool’s errand. The press is so unfree that there are probably journalists in Pyongyang who have a better track record for independence.
The above figures were supplied to the Western press by the opposition, so the information should be treated with a pinch of salt. Still, any protest in Eritrea, however large or small, is inherently an intriguing occurrence. Most dissenters go to prison, disappear, or are taken away to endure forced labor.
The protest kicked off over government plans to close an Islamic school. If the protests grow into a general uprising, it’s possible that we may be about to witness Eritrea joining the Arab Spring seven years late.
2 We Discovered A Whole New Mystery To The Pyramids
For lumps of rock over 4,000 years old, the pyramids have sure managed to keep a whole lot of secrets. Before we unearthed Tutankhamen, for example, we had no idea that he had even existed. This week, scientists may have added a new layer of mystery to Egypt’s most enigmatic monuments. Using a technique called muography, they discovered a giant void in the heart of the Great Pyramid at Giza.
The void is exactly that: a big, empty space right in the middle of otherwise solid rock. No one really knows what it’s doing there or why the Egyptians might have built it.
One theory is that it’s meant to relieve pressure from the pyramid’s own weight on the narrow Grand Gallery, staving off a possible collapse. However, other researchers have disputed whether this is a feasible explanation given the sheer size of the void.
At the moment, the team that discovered the void is hoping to send a small, camera-equipped robot inside in the near future to get a better look. Until then, expect conspiracy theories about the pyramids to only deepen.
1 The Russia Investigation Finally Claimed Its First Scalp
Now, this is getting interesting.
After a summer where nothing much happened, Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation roared back to life Monday with three dramatic indictments. First, Paul Manafort and his associate Richard Gates were charged with 12 violations, including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering. Only hours later, it was revealed that ex–Trump aide George Papadopoulos had struck a plea bargain on a charge of lying to federal agents.
The charges are serious, and it’s possible that all three men will end up behind bars. However, it should be noted that all charges against Manafort and Gates predate their work with the Trump campaign and relate to work undertaken in Ukraine.
On the other hand, the Papadopoulos charge is intimately related to his time working as an aide to the president. However, Papadopoulos does not appear to have been charged at this time with violating any laws connected to the work he did for the Trump presidential campaign. Instead, he is charged with lying to the FBI when questioned about it.
Papadopoulos may have puffed up his resume as well. Richard Farkas, a Russian politics professor at DePaul University, explained, “We knew his expertise was virtually nonexistent. It was thin and embellished. Lots of young people, when they aspire to get close to a campaign, exaggerate their experience. George did that in spades, and it was the talk of the department here.”
Where things go from here, no one really knows. Some think that Papadopoulos has dirt on the Trump campaign and will accept a plea bargain to rat out aides like Jared Kushner or Donald Trump Jr. Others think this is overblown and Papadopoulos’s role in the campaign was peripheral at best.
One thing’s for certain: This investigation is gonna keep dragging on for a long time yet.